Is Your International Driver’s Licence Valid? Rules & Regulations for Driving Overseas

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Posted on 19th December 2022

No matter if you’re considering our vehicle transport services to transport your vehicle to NZ or AU—or travelling to another country and want to drive—you should show the rules and regulations around international driver’s licences. The last thing you want is to be left with no legal licence when you arrive or traverse your designated country. However, looking into international driver’s licences can feel daunting if you don’t know where to start. 

Read this article to learn some of the rules and regulations around driving in New Zealand with an international driving licence and abroad with a New Zealand licence.

Is an international driver’s licence required when driving in NZ?

While you don’t need to have a New Zealand driver’s licence, you do need to have an appropriate licence to drive on NZ roads. If you meet the following criteria, you can drive in New Zealand without an NZ driver’s licence:

  • You have a valid overseas licence or driver’s permit that is current
  • Your driver’s licence is in English, or you have an accurate translation
  • You have not received a disqualification or suspension in NZ
  • You arrived in NZ less than 12 months ago
  • You have not received an NZ driver’s licence since you last entered the country

If you don’t meet these requirements, you must apply for an NZ driver’s licence (learn more about how to get an NZ licence on NZTA). 

You will be liable for a fine if you drive without an appropriate licence or permit. If you continue driving after a police officer has forbidden you, your vehicle will be impounded for 28 days at your own expense.

Driving for less than a year or holidaying

Depending on your country of origin, you may need an IDP. International Driving Permits (IDP) are internationally recognised translations of your current driver’s licence, valid for one year from the date of issue.

If you are from a country where English is the primary language (and your licence is in English), obtaining an IDP can be fairly straightforward. You can apply for an international driving permit online through AA.

While IDPs are internationally recognised translations of your current driver’s licence, they are not a licence in their own right. Therefore, you must also carry your current New Zealand driver’s licence with you while travelling. 

You might need to pay for an official translation if your licence is not in English. NZTA has a list of approved translators where you can convert your licence if a translation is required.

Staying permanently or on a working holiday visa

Do you plan on staying in New Zealand on a working holiday visa or living permanently in the country? If so, you should know that you cannot use an International Driving Permit (IDP) for either of these scenarios.

If you are considering international car shipping, you are probably looking into a permanent move to New Zealand. According to New Zealand Transport Agency, IDPs are only valid for a year after the issue date; therefore, they do not offer a long-term solution if you wish to stay in NZ permanently. 

If you’ve been in New Zealand for more than 12 months, you won’t be able to drive on your overseas driver’s licence anymore. You must have a New Zealand licence. Though drivers from some countries require theory and practical tests, others are exempt (if they have similar driving systems to New Zealand). Check the New Zealand Transport Agency for the list of exempt countries.

Driving internationally using your New Zealand driver’s licence

All countries have limits for how long you can use your New Zealand driver’s licence or IDP. If you stay within a country for over 12 months, you will typically need to apply for a local licence. If you have a New Zealand driver’s licence and are travelling to Australia, you can use your licence for the first 3 months after arriving in the country. However, you will need to apply for an Australian driver’s licence if you intend to stay longer. Learn more about driving in Australia on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) website.

If you are a New Zealander looking into international driver’s permits for a move or holiday abroad to other countries, keep in mind that not all places accept IDPs. The following countries do not accept IDPs:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua
  • Cambodia
  • Cayman Islands
  • China
  • Myanmar
  • Niue
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Windward Islands

With a current New Zealand driving licence, you can gain a Visitor’s Driving Licence on arrival into these countries.

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